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Psychology or Psychiatry? Damola and Sophinne’s Story

The Future Frontiers programme is intended to be a journey of discovery for young people. And that’s exactly what Damola experienced, with the support of her Axis Capital coach Sophinne.

Damola, 15 is in Year 10 at Coopers school in Bromley. She tells us:

"Before I did the Future Frontiers programme I didn’t really know what I was going to do with myself after GCSEs.

At the start I was thinking about psychiatry, and maybe becoming a psychiatrist. But then after a lot of research with my coach into both psychiatry and psychology, I think psychology would suit me more. It gives you a wider range of subjects that you can pick for A-Levels, which is really helpful. In psychiatry, the A-Levels you need to take and the grades you have to get are more restricted.

The Sector Role Model conversations really helped with that decision too. I had one video call with a doctor who is a psychiatrist, and then I had another one with a student who's doing her PhD in psychology.

Now I have a more solid knowledge of what I want to do after GCSEs, and I feel a lot more motivated at school because I know what I want to do with myself in the future.

I’m actually really excited to go on to A-Levels now. It’s going to be an opportunity for me to learn a lot more about what I want to do. I heard there is a big jump from GCSEs to A-Levels, so the change might be a bit stressful. But you just need to know how to balance your work and your life. I’m thinking of going to the Sixth Form of the school I am at now, but if that doesn’t work out I now know that I need to start looking at other Sixth Form colleges in my area.

It was so amazing working with my coach Sophinne! The sessions were really fun and I looked forward to going to them every week.”

Sophinne is an Assistant Underwriter at Axis Capital, a leading global insurance company.

“Damola is such a smart girl! She’s bright, and has loads of hobbies. She’s taught herself how to play the ukulele, and she teaches herself languages in her spare time. She's creative but she also enjoys technical and science subjects. It was so nice to see the different parts of her come through in conversation. And I've never met anyone that plays the ukulele!

I signed up to be a coach because I thought it would be a nice opportunity to support a young person who looked like me; to show young people that there are different kinds of people working in corporate positions.

The coaching volunteers from Axis are quite a diverse group, with good representation across gender, black and minority ethnic groups. It’s pretty representative of the diversity of London.

I was excited but a bit nervous as the first coaching session started. Our coaching group from Axis laugh at it now, because before coaches and students were paired off for our first coaching session, it felt a bit like a school disco: boys on one side, girls on the other side. Only this time it was adults on one side, school students on the other, just staring awkwardly at each other. But once we sat down talking, one-to-one, it was all great!

In the final session, when we connected a sector role model into the conversation, I managed to get two people to speak to Damola.

I was a bit worried about Damola’s chosen field at first because I’ve got no experience and little knowledge of psychiatry or clinical psychology! But being able to connect her with people actually working - or studying - in that field was a great experience. I struggled to find a psychiatrist, so the trainee clinical psychologist I found was actually a backup. I then found a psychiatrist via the Future Frontiers Sector Role Model database.

The sector role models were able to give Damola really valuable advice and talked about real life experiences of doing the job that she’s thinking of getting into. And as a result, having come to the coaching with one idea about a future career, Damola came away with new options to consider, which was really valuable.

Coach And Coachee Pose During Programme
Damola and Sophinne after their final coaching session

The coaching experience taught me that you don't have to have specific knowledge of your student’s chosen career yourself. You just have to use the tools that are at your disposal, and something good will come out of it.

It was great to discover that I’m able to use my own contacts, and my own skills to find someone for her to speak to.

I would coach again for sure, given the opportunity. It was great just knowing that she had time to really think about what she wanted to do; it felt like a purposeful four weeks that was valuable for her.

I’d encourage others to be coaches, because it feels great to make a difference, and feel you’ve been able to contribute to a young person’s development.

If Damola were here now I’d tell her just to keep it up, the future's bright! You can explore loads of different options. You’re not limited. You can do whatever you want to do!”

In 2020-21 we supported 1297 young people. 97% agreed "my career coach helped me to discover a career that inspires and motivates me."

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